Attention Winos: Puglia Wine Week Starts Today in NYC

If you like the sound of popping cork, there’s no better place to be this week than New York City. Starting today, top citywide restaurants will be featuring wines from Puglia, a southeastern region of Italy, in a promotion brought to you from winery association Wines of Puglia. (Try saying ‘Wines of Puglia’ out loud: totally fun.) The first ever Puglia Wine Week will offer wine lovers the chance to discover regional grape varieties like negroamaro, uva di Troia, and the popular Primitivo.

Participating restaurants include Il Buco on Bond Street, Gusto in the West Village, Lupa in Soho and, naturally, SD26, San Domenico’s rebirth and the eatery being touted as one of the city’s best for Italian. All 23 restaurants in on the Puglia cabal will create special menus and host a Puglian winemaker on one evening during the course of the program (it ends October 3rd). Participating wineries include Albea, Barsento, Cefalicchio, Due Palme, Tormaresca, Vallone, and Vigne E Vini.

Many Puglia wines are not presently imported to the states, but if after several glasses of D’ Alfonso del Sordo you find yourself hankering for sloppy fourths, certain bottles will be available at select wine shops, so you can, er, pop your own cork. Speaking of which, has the question of whether cork soaking is a real profession ever been answered?

Where Celebs Go Out: Marc Jacobs, Amanda Lepore, Adrian Grenier, Emma Snowdon-Jones

At David Barton Gym annual toy drive: ● MARC JACOBS – “In Paris, there’s a small club called Montana, and there’s a restaurant called Thiou. Bars I really don’t hang out in. Oh, there’s this great club that happens once a month in Paris called Club Sandwich. And it’s at the Espace Cardin. And everyone gets super dressed-up, so it’s really, really fun. I try to go whenever I’m in Paris, if it’s going on. And we stay out all night and just dance like crazy. And in New York, my favorite restaurants have always been the same. I love to eat at Pastis. I love the Standard. I love Da Silvano. I eat in the lobby of the Mercer a lot, the hotel. I usually go to Pastis for lunch, and there’s a sandwich that was on the menu, but they don’t make it anymore, but I always insist that they make it for me. And it’s really fattening, so I shouldn’t eat it, but it’s chicken paillard and gruyere cheese and bacon. And it’s so delicious. It’s really good. And it’s my weakness. It’s just like the most perfect sandwich.”

● DAVID BARTON – “Oh, I can’t think where I like to hang out in Seattle except my new gym! There’s a great place that just opened up in New York, up on 51st, called the East Side Social Club. Patrick McMullan is one of the partners there. He’s co-hosting with me tonight. Great place; really cool. It’s very old world, kind of like going to Elaine’s, kind of little cozy; sit at a booth; very cool. Love a little place called Il Bagatto, over on 7th between A & B — little tiny Italian place, East Village, kind of a neighborhood place that I go to. What else? I don’t know restaurants. I’m very casual. I’m so not that into food. I mean, I could eat cardboard — I’m just not into food! I like people. I like atmosphere, but I’m just not that into food.” ● AMANDA LEPORE – “I definitely like Bowery Bar and I like Hiro. Boom Boom Room. Just anywhere where everybody is, I guess! [laughs] Novita, I like, my friend Giuseppe. Any favorite dishes? I try not to eat too much! ● PATRICK MCDONALD – “My favorite restaurant in New York is Indochine. It’s been around for 25 years. Jean-Marc, I adore. I love the bar at the Carlyle. I don’t drink, but I like to go there for tea in the afternoon. And I love Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon on Gramercy Park. I love Pastis, Odeon, and everywhere. I like the French fries at Pastis.” ● PATRICK MCMULLAN – “I love going to Waverly Inn downtown. Boom Boom Room is fabulous. That’s really a new, great place. SL, on 409 W. 14th Street, down below is nice. Of course, I have the East Side Social Club that I’m involved with, and that’s great for hanging out in, for eating. Favorite dishes anywhere? Oh, I don’t know, just anything that people recommend. I usually go with what people recommend ’cause most people know what’s good — the waiters know, so I think that’s the best thing. Red wine is good to have to drink sometimes. They have a drink called the Eastsider at the East Side Social Club that’s really good; any of their pastas; their ravioli is great there. What else do I like? That new place that’s open, the English place, on 60th in the Pierre — Le Caprice, that’s a nice place. At the Waverly Inn, I like the macaroni and cheese. It was funny because the macaroni and cheese is about two dollars less than a room at the Pod Hotel, which is where the East Side Social Club is! The Monkey Bar is fun. There are so many cool places in New York. I just go where people tell me to go.”

At elf party for Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe:

● JENNY MCCARTHY – “In Chicago, I would have to say Gibsons Steakhouse still; in Los Angeles, Katsuya, still love that sushi; I’m addicted to it. And in New York, Koi. I’m very trendy and boring, but, hey, that’s where the good food is, so …” ● PERI GILPIN – “In L.A., we like BLT a lot. We have five-year-old twins, so we’re like in bed by nine o’clock — pretty boring. Corner Bakery for soup.” ● CANDACE CAMERON BURE – “L.A., hands down, our favorite restaurant is Gjelina, which is in Venice. And we love Craft; love Michael’s in Santa Monica. Here, in New York, my favorite restaurant is Lupa, which is a Mario Batali restaurant; love it here. And I don’t go to clubs anymore, nightclubs; I don’t ever! At Gjelina, they have a burrata with prosciutto and, usually, a warm pear or a warm peach. I love that! I really love tapas. I enjoy getting a lot of appetizers, more than just a main dish. We, actually, have had our own wine label, Bure Family Wines, for two years, which is at several restaurants, so matching the food and the wine is a big part for us. We’re big foodies” ● DEAN MCDERMOTT – “There is a great bar, Ye Coach & Horses in L.A., on Sunset. I’m so bad at this stuff! Oh, Katsuya, in the Valley, awesome sushi. It’s our favorite place. We go there like three times a week.” ● KEN BAUMANN – “In New York, my favorite restaurant is Il Cortile. It’s in Little Italy, and it’s run by this guy named Stefano, and it’s incredible, phenomenal food. In Los Angeles, my favorite restaurant’s gotta be Cut, which is in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.” ● SHAILENE WOODLEY – “Honestly, I’m not really a club kinda girl. I’d rather go to a local bar with some friends and hang out there. Or just go back to my house and have people come over. I’m more of the congregate-at-my-house kind of chick. I’m 18, so I don’t drink, so I don’t go to bars. There’s a place called the Alamo, which has karaoke and it’s a bar, but we go and karaoke there probably once a week.” ● FRANCIA RAISA – “I’m not a big club person. I really like bars and lounges. In L.A., I like to hang out at Buffalo Wild Wings, watching sports and drinking beer with my friends. I really don’t go out that much. I hang out at home and have my own glass of wine, watching Grey’s Anatomy. Oh, I just tried this restaurant yesterday at Gramercy Park Hotel. It’s a new, Italian place — Maialino. It was amazing. And again, I’m very simple, so I like pizza, and John’s Pizza out here is amazing to me, too. And hot wings I like at Planet Hollywood. I’m obsessed with them!”

At Zeno “Hot Spot” launch party @ MTV Studios:

● SKY NELLOR – “I am a huge sushi fanatic, so I just had Katsuya three times in two days in L.A. What is it about Katsuya? It’s the baked-crab hand roll in a soy-paper wrap. It’s just so yummy. I want one now! In New York, I have a fixation with Bagatelle. I just love the fish and the veggies. Nightclubs, nightlife, oh, my God! Apparently, I’m a really good bowler, so I hang out at Lucky Strike everywhere — Miami, L.A., Kansas! We just had a bowling party, and I won, so … Oh, they didn’t let me see my score. I just kept getting strikes to the point where they were, like, ‘Give her more shots! We have to stop this girl!’ And the drunker I got, the better I got. Clubs — if I’m going to go out, I’m going to go out to dance. And I’m going to go where the DJ is playing. I don’t care what club it is. I went to a dive in L.A., at a party called Afex, just because some of the best DJs were playing that night. Like, I don’t care about the crowd. I don’t care about the scene. I care about the music. I don’t think the venue has a name. I think it’s called No Space. They just move the party around.” ● SUCHIN PAK – “I have a great place. It’s called Broadway East, and it’s on East Broadway. And I love it because it’s a beautiful space, but also it’s literally across the street from my house. That always helps. And then there’s a really fantastic place called Bacaro. Oh, it’s amazing! It’s downstairs. It’s almost a dungeon-like place. The people that used to do Peasant, the wine bar there, moved to this place. I like to say the Lower East Side on East Broadway is where the grown-up hipsters go. For a true Lower East Sider, it may not be true Lower East Side, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved more south than east, and I keep trickling that way.”

At charity:ball for charity:water:

● ADRIAN GRENIER – “Brooklyn. Fort Greene. Habana Outpost — it’s run mostly on solar power, and it’s a sustainable business.” MARK BIRNBAUM “Well, if I do say so myself, Abe & Arthur’s on 14th Street; SL, the new club underneath it. I still love Tenjune. And I like hanging out at home other than that. What about places other than your own? So I shouldn’t say the Chandelier Room, in Hoboken? I really like going to Bar and Books in the West Village — that’s our spot. You know where else I like to go? Miami — the new W South Beach is unbelievable, by far the best hotel down there. The design is incredible; the pool area is very nice; they have good restaurants there — there’s a Mr. Chow’s and the other one is good; the rooms are really nice; it’s very well done; it’s just very fresh, the entire thing; and the artwork is incredible. You don’t feel like you’re in South Beach — not that there’s anything wrong with it — but it’s really, really, really, well done.” ● NICOLE TRUNFIO – “I just found this really cool jazz club in Paris where they still dance to old, rock-and-roll music in partners. It’s a location undisclosed. I don’t remember what it’s called. It’s in the Saint-Michel — it’s just off it. You can jump into a taxi, ‘cause we went to a jazz bar called the Library, but that was closed. So we asked the taxi driver, and he took us to this place. So, I’m sure lots of local French taxi-drivers would know the place.” ● LAUREN BUSH – “Oh, gosh, I’m like so uncool! It’s such an obvious question, it’s so hard … I’m a vegetarian, so I love Blossom restaurant. They have a good, quinoa-tofu dish. It’s like gingery. It’s really good. ● EMMA SNOWDON-JONES – “I love Le Bilboquet because it’s consistent, and mainly wherever your friends are it makes the place. It’s on 63rd, between Park and Madison. I’ve gone there since I was in boarding school. I’d come into the city on the weekends, and I’d go there. I think anyone that’s been in New York as long as I have knows it. That’s a really, bloody long time, sadly. As good as my Botox is, it’s too long!” ● KRISTIN CHENOWETH – “I am an old-fashioned girl, and I still love Joe Allen’s. I go there all the time. And right next-door above, is a place called Bar Centrale, and I go there, too. I was just there last night for three hours. I like the manicotti at Joe Allen’s. It’s excellent!” ● JULIAN LENNON – “Probably the Jane bar and the Rose Bar in New York.”

At launch of S.T. Dupont in-store boutique @ Davidoff on Madison Avenue:

● RON WHITE – “I love the bars in Glasgow, Scotland. You could go sit in a bar by yourself and in five minutes, you’d be talkin’ to 10 people because they’re so curious about anybody that walks in that’s not normally in there. They just want to go talk to ’em and find out what they’re about. They’re just as friendly as they can be. I was there for the British Open, or the Open Championship, as it’s called. And if you go to a bar in New York City, you can sit there for the rest of your life and not meet another person because they’re not really gonna come up to you and go, ‘Hey, what’s up? What are you doing in town?’ That just doesn’t happen here.”

Industry Insiders: Katie Grieco, Crafty VP

As vice president of operations and new business development of Craft Restaurant Group, Katie Grieco works shoulder-to-shoulder with famed chef and Bravo’s most recognizable Top Chef personality, Tom Colicchio. Overseeing the Craft, Craftbar, Craftsteak and ‘wichcraft locations nationwide (New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Las Vegas) Grieco often has her hands full. She gets the job done one restaurant at a time.

Describe a typical day on the job. After the last five years being in this growth mode at Craft, opening on average a restaurant a year, a regular day for me would be normal office daytime hours. My job is dealing with developing new projects. If we’re opening a restaurant in Atlanta, then I’m working with the architect on the design, choosing materials, figuring out table layout, working on hiring managers for particular locations or working with the graphic designer. On any given day, I’m confronted with human resource issues. Someone needs to be hired or fired or counseled. I get involved with that when it takes place at the management level. I’m in constant communication with Tom. When he’s in town, it’s about sitting in his office and keeping him up to speed on everything that’s going on and asking his advice on certain decisions.

It sounds like you’re never out of things to do. No, never. It’s fun that way, and I appreciate the lack of routine because I think it keeps me inspired to continue learning.

Did Tom’s involvement in Top Chef change the dynamic of the company? The only way it changed the dynamic of the company is that it brings a group of people into the restaurant who might not have otherwise come. The show has an enormous fan base, and Tom has an enormous fan base. He gets all sorts of letters of praise, and people who watch the show and know Tom think, “Oh I should go and see what it is that he really does and understand how he is as a chef and why it makes him a good judge.” That’s certainly the main reason why he wanted to do that show in the beginning. He thought, “People know me in New York, but they don’t know who I am in Dallas, and so, if I can do this show it can get the word out about Craft.” It had nothing to do with wanting fame or notoriety in the celebrity sense. His involvement in the show has really achieved the goals that he set out to meet. It’s been a welcome addition to the Craft world.

Are you a Top Chef fanatic? I watch the show religiously because of Tom but partly just because I love it. If I had no involvement in the restaurant business, it would completely turn me off from being a chef. Many years ago, I had visions of being a chef which is sort of why I got into this business.

You started off as Tom’s personal assistant? I got my masters at Cornell in hospitality management, and when I got out, I wanted a management position somewhere. I had no service experience and was not ready to be a manager but signed on to be Tom’s assistant. I thought Gramercy Tavern seemed to be the place I wanted to work. It was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. It got me a career that I love, and I met my husband ant Gramercy Tavern. Tom has given me so much autonomy well before I even deserved it.

Where do you eat and drink outside of Craft? One of my favorites is Lupa. I also like Boqueria. My husband, Paul Grieco, is also in the restaurant business so we go to his restaurants, Hearth, Terroir and Insieme.

Since both of you are in the restaurant business, are you competitive? I suppose some people on any given night are thinking, “Should I go to Hearth or should I go to Craft?” But not really. I think we target different parts of the market, and we’re in different enough neighborhoods.

Has Craft’s emphasis on using local foods wavered at all recently? It hasn’t changed at all. We still have the same priorities as far as using local ingredients and the highest quality ingredients we can find. The recession has made us think of different ways to use the ingredients. For example, we use fava beans for a different use at Frugal Fridays than when we use them at Craft. We can never change the focus of seasonal, high quality ingredients. We could go out of business if we ever did because that’s really what Craft is all about.

Recent positive trends in the industry? When the downturn first happened, I was sitting in management meetings and saying, “Lets not look at this as punishment, let’s look at this as an opportunity to do something great and different and new.” The restaurant business is never easy. It used to be like, if you opened your doors you could makes some money or be trendy enough for a little while. Now things need a shake. There are just too many, and having this opportunity to let the good people rise to the occasion and do some new things has been a lot of fun.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? My guiltiest pleasure is watching America’s Next Top Model. It’s horribly embarrassing.

What’s your dream spot for a Craft location? I’d have to say London. We’ve talked a lot about it, and we’ve always thought that London would be such a perfect city for a Craft.

Industry Insiders: Alessandro Bandini, Scuderia’s Front Man

If you’ve ever visited New York Italian restaurant powerhouse Da Silvano, you’ve probably rubbed elbows and shared a laugh with manager Alessandro Bandini. The gregarious Florentine has put in his time in kitchens and dining rooms at Italian restos around the world, and he’s recently invested his wealth of knowledge in new project Scuderia. Situated across the street from Bar Pitti and Da Silvano on Sixth Avenue, the modern, fresh trattoria serves delectable Italian comfort food in an open, casual environment. We met with Bandini at the new spot and chatted about the menu’s influences, why women love Italian, and the legendary Da Silvano/Bar Pitti feud.

How did the idea for Scuderia come about? We started to think about the possibility of taking over this place because we thought that the location is great, and we have a beautiful sidewalk. The choice fell also because this is our turf. I’ve been working at Da Silvano for 11 years, and I know the people. So Leyla, Fabrizio, Silvano, and myself decided to make a young restaurant with moderate prices, Italian comfort food, to attract neighborhood people and young people in an economy like this. We wanted to compete with maybe Bar Pitti or Lupa, or Morandi, and do something more affordable and younger, that doesn’t have to compete with Silvano. The initial idea was always to do something for everybody. We planned to be open for breakfast from the beginning, but we haven’t done it yet because we want to first concentrate on lunch and then progressively add more and more. We’ve been averaging 200 people a day since we opened so we think it’s working.

Describe the clientele. Many, many ladies come here. Maybe 70%. The female customers love meatballs and pizza. They definitely love fish and the whole fishes like the branzino. We host a lot of large parties with many, many ladies. We love it.

Why do you think you get so many women? I don’t know. I think that the place is kind of — I don’t really like to use this adjective, but — sexy. Since it was designed partially by Leyla, it has a female touch. I also think it’s because of the pricing. On ladies night, the ladies may not want to spend too much. Maybe I’m wrong, but if you go to a nice restaurant, usually it’s the man that takes the tab.

The cuisine is Italian comfort food? We decided to concentrate on what we know about Italian food, which is based on simplicity, first with fresh ingredients, and using the staples like pizza, pasta, and sandwiches with a little twist. We’re using seasonal ingredients and concentrating on what people really like. I love the Ceviche au Scallops. We do some unusual pizza with bleu cheese, speck, and fig jam. In general, people come here and they eat richly.

What are the Florentine and Tuscan touches on the menu? The Tuscan touch is the use of olive oil and the use of game, rosemary, and fresh herbs. It’s also seen in the simplicity of the preparation. There is a fusion of Northern Italian bistro foods with an eye to the American palate. We have a burger made of brisket of beef, so it’s very fatty and juicy. We have staples, like pesto made like they do in Genoa with stringbeans and potatoes. We also have lasagna; a Bolognese dish.

Locally grown products as well? Yes. For instance, now ramps are in season; we use them. Fidela ferns are in season; we use them. Fava beans are in season; we use them. We’ve been serving, when it’s available, local Atlantic sardines, as opposed to sardines from Portugal. Whatever the market offers; we use it — especially in the daily specials.

What happened with your chef, Claudio Cristofoli? Claudio has been, like, a little disappointment because I thought he didn’t believe in the project as much as we tried to make him believe in the project because we have ideas of expansion. If this goes well we would like to replicate the brand. So he could have been part of something greater if he only was a little bit more patient. Unfortunately, he wasn’t.

And do you have ideas for a replacement? We’re evaluating people now. I’m in charge of the back of the house. I try to work with the strong guys that I have, which are very good executors of our menu, which I almost completely designed with Silvano. So it’s not difficult. You don’t need really a metagalactic chef to execute our menu. We just need someone organized.

You have a long history with Silvano. How did you cross paths in the beginning? Silvano used to go to hotel school in Florence with my parents in the 60s. I came here for the first time in 1990 on vacation, and I met Silvano then. I worked for him for a week as a cashier, just to make a couple of extra bucks, and I really liked what he was doing as a host-chef. He inspired me. When I came back to the states in 1996, I started working as a waiter at Da Silvano to make some money. It’s an amazing place, with an amazing clientele — celebrities, beautiful people, beautiful customers — in a trattoria setting. That was the magic about Da Silvano. For 11 years, I worked as a manager there.

How are people in this neighborhood reacting to Scuderia? We have many, many people from the neighborhood. Many curious people wander over from Bar Pitti and Da Silvano. People really like the atmosphere. People also organize little private events in our mezzanine in the back. And now we have this beautiful sidewalk that is really wide and surrounded by trees. I think the place has all the cards. We have a full bar, and so, lots of potential. I think it’s going to be a promising, good summer

How does Scuderia change the neighborhood restaurant dynamic? Are you attracting clientele from Bar Pitti? I think that it would be pretentious to believe that we could steal customers from such an established place like Bar Pitti, but I have noticed Bar Pitti clients and customers coming here. I believe that this place is definitely more fun than Bar Pitti. The food is really good, and we are definitely improving. But Bar Pitti has an amazing amount of regulars that it has built over the years. I see people crossing the street when they have to wait too long. So, instead of having 50 people waiting at Bar Pitti, now they may have 25 because people come here. We are good enough, and we have a young, fun wait staff. The service has been defined as breezy, warm, and friendly. That’s the idea that we want to impose. The food is tasty, but the environment is really nice. The place is very airy with high ceilings.

Is it true that Giovanni Tognozzi from Bar Pitti chased you down 6th Avenue last year? Yeah, it’s true. And it’s funny, really. You should laugh at these things. And I did. I don’t hate Giovanni. I think that Giovanni is a great worker and, unfortunately, I got caught in between him and Silvano. They’ve had this feudal relationship, and it’s a little silly because they’re both making money off each other. You put two Italians — two Tuscans — ten feet away from each other, and it’s not an easy task to keep them calm and quiet. If you know Tuscan people, they’re very argumentative and opinionated, and that’s what created this feud. I got caught in between because I was Silvano’s manager and Giovanni first threw me out of the restaurant and told me I wasn’t welcome in 2004. Last year, I accidentally entered Bar Pitti. I saw an old friend I hadn’t seen in awhile, I went into the terrace, not even inside. I was talking to my friend for less than a minute. Then I left and I didn’t notice Giovanni, so he came after me, around the corner, chasing me. And he told me if I ever, ever tried that again he was gonna have someone shave my head. I wanted to see if you can really do that sort of thing in 2008, without having consequences. I called the police and I went in front of the restaurant and tried to stir the waters a little bit. I kept asking, “Can he do that?” Because I never ever hurt the guy in any way.

Any other stories of the feud? Giovanni threw Fabrizio [Sotti], our partner, out after he was spending tons of money at Bar Pitti. He used to go between Da Silvano and Bar Pitti all the time. Once he found out that Fabrizio would be a partner here with me and Silvano, he kicked him out. It was done ungracefully — he kicked him out in the middle of a meal. Giovanni is a little rough around the edges. He has a few problems. Every single employee at Bar Pitti is forbidden to go to Da Silvano, even in their private life. They will face consequences from Giovanni. They can’t wave or say hello to anyone at Da Silvano. On our side, this feud doesn’t exist. People who work here are free to do whatever they want. Giovanni really wants to keep the feud going. I know friends of Giovanni who are looking for jobs who found out that Silvano was involved at Scuderia, and cannot apply here because they would lose Giovanni’s friendship. I always ask, “Does he pay your rent?”

Who else does it right? I love Al di Là Trattoria in Park Slope. It’s a Venetian trattoria. The menu is small, but has exceptional staples. I like Blue Ribbon Sushi, Aquagrill, and almost anything in this neighborhood.

Industry Insiders: Sandra Ardito, Giving the OK to KO

Sandra Ardito heads sales, marketing and special events for KO Hospitality Management (Cooper Square Hotel, Empire Hotel, Hotel on Rivington, and Chelsea Hotel in Atlantic City). We met the hospitality connoisseur at the Cooper Square Hotel to get the scoop on the Hamptons Memorial Day hotspot, the Reform Club Inn (suites and private cottages in Amagansett), working for Ian Schrager, and why we should stay at Cooper Square (besides the fact that it’s the location of the Bjork’s afterparty tonight).

Is this the first hotel KO has developed? No, we did the Empire Hotel on 63rd Street, and we did the Chelsea Hotel in Atlantic City for Paul Sevigny and Matt Abramcyk. For those hotels, I would describe us as the hired guns.

Who are the other members of the KO team? Klaus Ortlieb, Yana Yevinson, Meg Burnie, Manuela Kolb, and Annie Ohayon.

How’d you get here? I was the director of special events at Chanterelle. Budgets were $250,000 to a million back then. And while there, I moonlighted by helping people open their restaurants. I opened the Harrison with owner Jimmy Bradley. I met some amazing people, like Joey Campanaro from Little Owl. I was Jason and Jen’s investor at ‘ino on Bedford street. Eventually, Meg Burnie brought me into meet Klaus at the Hotel on Rivington. That’s when I left Chanterelle. My first event at the Rivington was Timothy Greenfield Sander’s XXX Book. Bill Dye called me to be part of Gramercy Park Hotel with Ian Schrager. We opened with the Marc Jacobs party on September 11, 2006, after working for months nonstop. I shadowed Ian for the two nights before we opened the hotel. He had receptions for all of his friends and was surprised at how I knew them. He said, “You are the girl, you are going to do this.” It was like a love letter. And he trained me and nurtured me into this role. Finally, Klaus started KO Hospitality Management about a year and a half ago and asked me if I wanted to be a partner. It was very hard to leave Ian. At KO, we work with owners and developers from ground-up construction. We attaché the restaurant, the architect, the interior designer, and conceptualize the entire project.

Something unique about Cooper Square Hotel? Every book in the Cooper Square hotel was picked through Housing Works, which is a charity for AIDS victims. People can purchase the books and the money will go to the charity. Klaus is a seasoned professional who only takes on projects he believes in. He worked with Andre Balazs and Ian Schrager for years. He wanted the experience at Cooper Square to be completely different, that’s why there’s no reception desk. There’s a lobby host who shows you to your room. It’s about personal attention. Klaus sat on 575 chairs until he choose what he felt was the right one. We’re also building a screening room on the second floor. There’s an indoor/outdoor bar on the second floor as well, and a 3,000-square-foot terrace.

What is your specific contribution? The total experience here. I hand-picked the staff. What Ian and Klaus have given me, I hope to give to someone else.

What’s the next project? We are helicoptering to the Reform Club Inn in Amagansett to get ready to open for Memorial Day weekend.

What music do you listen to? Rock ‘n roll — Iggy Pop, The Raconteurs, Jane’s Addiction.

Favorite artist? Radek Szczesny.

Favorite restaurants? ‘inoteca, Little Owl, and James in Brooklyn

Favorite bar? Royal Oak in Williamsburg, Madame Geneva in the Double Crown and Bowery Electric.

Favorite hotel? East Deck in Montauk for a retro motel and The Crillion in Paris for high-end.

Who do you admire in the business? I grew up reading about Ian Schrager and then had the pleasure of working for him. He hired me to be his director of special events. The man who started the party is looking at me and letting me see his vision. It’s an honor and the best compliment. I also admire Klaus Ortlieb for his loyalty, compassion, and integrity, and Nur Khan for the incredible way he takes care of people

Who do you feel does it right? Joe and Jason Denton of ‘inoteca and Lupa

What’s something people don’t know about you? I’m an avid gardener and spend all my money on plants for my roof deck that I made totally grassroots style with my boyfriend.

What are you doing tonight? Going to Bjork’s concert at Housing Works and then to her after party at Cooper Square Hotel.

Photo: Mike Mabes

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Favorite NYC Spots, Done Right

As if winning an Oscar and having an Apple wasn’t enough, Gwyneth Paltrow is trying to steal our thunder by listing her favorite New York restaurants in her latest GOOP newsletter. That’s what we do, Gwyneth! How would you like it if we started doing yoga? When she did it for L.A., we let it slide as a mid-life crisis/nervous breakdown, but now she strikes again. Problem is, she’s not very good at it. After the jump, a list of Gwyneth’s favorite NYC restaurants, followed by her vague reasons why. Luckily, you can click on each restaurant to find out what it’s really about.

Babbo – “One of the city’s best.” ● Cookshop – “It is abuzz with foodies who come to taste the ever-changing menu.” ● Balthazar – “I love this place.” ● Gramercy Tavern – “One of New York’s most popular restaurants for a reason.” ● HanGawi – “HanGawi is a vegetarian Korean place that I have been going to for years.” ● Kelley and Ping SoHo – “Another SoHo spot that has been there for ages.” ● Lupa – “I love to go for spaghetti aglio e olio.” ● Omen – “Omen has been there since long before SoHo was trendy.” ● Sushi Yasuda – “Best sushi in NYC, hands down.” ● Tartine – “A very quaint, tiny French café on a perfect West Village corner.” ● Market Table – “I just recently discovered Market Table and I adore it.” ● BLT Fish Shack – “This is one of my most frequented spots.” ● 15 East – “One of my faves.” ● Pearl Oyster Bar – “Oh, how I love Pearl Oyster Bar.” ● Angelica Kitchen – “East Village granola heaven.” ● Momofuku Ssam and Noodle Bar – “These places became two of NYC’s hottest spots in a very short time. ” ● Aquagrill – “One of my regular spots.” ● Otto – ” A great place to bring kids.”

Industry Insiders: Jason Denton, Italian Stallion

Italian Stallion: Jason Denton, co-owner of Italian eateries ‘ino, Lupa Osteria Romana, Otto Enoteca Pizzeria, ‘inoteca and Bar Milano, speaks on still being giddy after 20 years in the game, getting deported to New York, living off canned fish, growing up in a culinary wasteland, and being Italian at heart.

Are you Italian? At heart I am.

Really? Nobody in your family? You co-own five Italian restaurants. No. Actually my family really didn’t cook that much Italian where I grew up in Idaho. Just the staple Ragu and overcooked steaks. It was OK growing up because we always had a meal in front of us, but it was never in pursuit of gourmet. Monday was the same dinner for like 20 years, really.

How did your restaurant business start? When I was 18, my parents and I moved to Seattle where I started college. I was also washing dishes at this little steak and rib house called Billy McAl’s, and I kind of fell in love with the restaurant business the first time I stepped into the place. I loved everything about it. Whenever I walked, in people were always happy and energetic. It seemed like a real camaraderie, and it was something I really enjoyed. And I enjoyed it enough to drop out of college to become a dishwasher. I knew at 18 that I wanted to be in the restaurant business.

You knew at 18? You don’t understand. I still get goose bumps when people come into my restaurants and have smiles on their faces. I think probably the spark before that was because of my uncle, who was in the restaurant and nightclub business in San Francisco. He always had these crazy parties. When I was 14, we were going to Disneyland, and we drove up through San Francisco to see him and he was this flamboyant, crazy entertainer who everyone loved. He took us straight to his bar, which was one of the hottest spots in San Francisco. And there were gorgeous women all over the place, and they’re like, “Oh Mr. Denton, right this way,” and I was like, “Oooooh.” When I turned 21, my uncle was getting ready to open up a new place in San Francisco called Harry Denton’s, and he asked me to come and help. It was so grand, people in tuxedos, lines around the block; it was the hottest place in San Francisco.

For my first job, he put me at the door, so I was 21, at the door in a tux, and people would be doling out cash, and then some night the mayor would be coming, or some other socialite — there was all this excitement. I kept working with him for a while, and one day he just pulled me aside and asked me what I wanted to do with my life, and I told him I wanted to open my own restaurant. He said the only way to do that was to learn how to cook. From 6 a.m. the next morning I started working in the kitchen, making sauces, washing vegetables and fruits. It was all bottom-rung, entry-level work. I did that for about three years and kind of hit a point where I felt I needed to grow a little more before I packed my stuff up and went to Europe for around seven months just traveling.

What did that bring to your restaurateur experience? Did you have great food and get inspired? No, actually we were on a really super-tight budget, so we just ate cans of sardines and drank cheap bottles of wine every day, all day long.

When did you come back? I ran out of money, so I decided to work in London and got a job as a chef at this place for a bit. I had a girlfriend in Paris, who I kind of met along the way on the trip, and I would make money during the week and use it up on the weekends to visit her. Eventually I had too many trips back and forth from London to Paris, and then I got deported back here.

So when did you move to New York? Well actually when they were deporting me they said it was either San Francisco, Seattle or New York and I had lived in San Francisco and my parents lived in Seattle so I told them to send me to New York, and I arrived here with ten bucks in my pocket 15 years ago.

When did you finally start working on your new restaurant idea? I got a job waiting tables at this place called Po. One of the owners there used to work at my uncle’s restaurant as a waiter, and he was partners with Mario Batali. He had a couple of shifts available so I was worked there as a waiter for some years. Then at some point I realized that I can never work for anyone else again, because I had worked for the best bosses, like Mario, who is a tireless worker and a really good guy. That was when I had the idea about opening up ‘ino with my wife, and then we opened the little bruscheterria which has been around for ten years. It was before anyone here really knew about paninis. It’s like my baby.

The idea of Bar Milano just came about over the course of the last few years, wanting to do something a little different. I wanted to step it up a little bit, and try to find a new neighborhood. We also loved the combination of Milan to New York. I think they’re very parallel. They’re very sexy and very financial, and there’s a good mix of a lot of different foods around. We wanted to stay focused on northern Italian food and style wise make it very Milanese. We felt like this could be a New York restaurant as well as a restaurant in Milan.

Do you ever want to start something on your own? I love having partners because it allows me to do a lot of things that I really love to do. I have two kids, I don’t work on the weekends, and it’s very important that I hang out with my family. Also, I just finished my second cookbook. So it’s important for me to get time to do that kind of stuff. I’m not that guy who’s going to be here every night till two in the morning and come home late. I always try to get home at 5 o’clock to have dinner with the family and then leave after the kids go to sleep. It’s a good balance to have great partners because it allows you to have some sort of normalcy.

What’s a regular day for you? I get up every morning at 6 a.m., hang out with the kids in the morning, make breakfast, take them to school with my wife. Then my day starts at one of the restaurants. I’m at ‘ino by 8:45-9 o’clock every day, and I’m there for a couple of hours. And I’ll go check out some of the other restaurants for lunch, maybe Lupa or ‘inoteca to see if they need anything. The hardest part is when I open up new restaurants; they take so much of my time that sometimes I have to neglect the others for a little while.

I love the way you talk about your restaurants like your children. Other than my family, I live and breathe the restaurants, and like I said before, there’s nothing that makes me happier then seeing a smile on a person’s face, because I know that they’re going to come back. That’s probably why I moved out of the kitchen. I love to cook, and I’m probably pretty good, but if I did the same dishes a hundred times over in one night and wouldn’t be able to see the reaction on someone’s face, I wouldn’t get the same satisfaction as I now get by shaking hands and working the tables. We always kind of joke and call it spreading our fairy dust.

How is the current economic state affecting everything? It’s a new challenge that we haven’t really had in the last ten years, and probably Bar Milano is feeling it more than the other places that aren’t as expensive and very established.

Which restaurant is your favorite? Well, my baby is ‘ino. It was kind of where we started the whole panini craze. That was the first one we came up with. It’s kind of magic for us. I love all of them. It’s like my children. They all have such a special spot for so many different reasons, I don’t think I can necessarily love one more than the other. But if I had to pick one it would be ‘ino because it’s my menu, and a lot of my boys have been there for years. It’s like a family.

The Top-Earning Chefs

Stephanie Izard might be bragging to all her friends that she’s some kind of a top chef, but everyone knows the real top chefs are the top-earning ones. Forbes, pathological ranker of wealth, has listed the top ten best-paid chefs. It used to be that Wolfgang Puck was the only celeb chef around (Spago is the tits), but with the rise of the Food Network and shows like Iron Chef, what you do with duck confit can get you just as noticed as the famous mouths you feed.

Rachael Ray sautéed into the top spot with some old-fashioned Oprah endorsements, a few TV shows, a book or two, and of course, an FHM spread. No restaurant needed. Mario Batali, who plops in at number 7, has had some success on TV — but his riches come from his 13 restaurants, Babbo and Lupa, among them. Renegade gourmand Anthony Bourdain makes an obvious appearance (#10), although his show No Reservations is probably more responsible than his string of Les Halles eateries. One of the faces of Top Chef, Tom Colicchio, is also listed, but not just as a judger of food. He also dishes it out at Craft, Craftsteak, and ‘whichcraft in NYC. Sushi emperor Nobuyuki Matsuhisa is fourth, the reason being the first four letters of his first name.